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Bespoke digital training programmes help German travel operator with global transformation

The TUI Group is using digital education programmes by Hyper Island to unify its geographically disparate leadership and drive change

Germany-based travel operator TUI is using bespoke digital educational programmes in an effort to unify its global teams and create an internal pool of business leaders who can drive its continuing transformation into a global organisation.

TUI has been focusing on creating a globally unified organisation since the merger between TUI Travel PLC and the TUI AG three years ago.

The deal unified the previously siloed businesses into the TUI Group, in the process creating the world’s largest tour operator, consisting of over 380 hotels, 1,600 stores and 150 aircrafts across six airlines. Covering every aspect of the tourism value chain, TUI claims this enables them to serve 27 million customers a year worldwide.

“With leadership development, there’s a significant move towards creating common global ways of thinking about how we develop managers to enable us to be a global organisation,” said Louise Howells, global head of leadership development at TUI Group:

“Increasingly, people are working in virtual teams and in a matrix of relationships where they’re interacting with people in other countries and other parts of the business more and more. It therefore makes sense to develop our leaders to be global and think globally.”

To allow for this transformation, TUI has primarily focused on re-training existing members of its senior leadership teams in the hope new ways of doing business can be disseminated through them.

“To create a tipping point for change, you need a lot more leaders understanding how to lead change, how to understand the context of the situation we’re living in, how to take strategy and vision, and translate it into something meaningful that’s going to deliver for our stakeholders and customers,” said Howells.

Emerging technologies

In the context of massive digital transformation and a slate of potentially revolutionary emerging technologies, she said digital leadership is more about people than technology.

“A lot of people think it means being technically capable, but it doesn’t,” said Howells. “This is my view, but it’s all about the mindset – the role of a leader needs to be far more collaborative, we need to let people network and come up with ideas from the bottom up rather than through the old models of power, control and hierarchy.”

Creating the curriculum

To begin the journey of shifting its business culture, TUI approached tech-focused training institution and business school Hyper Island to deliver programmes that could help its senior leadership engage more effectively with these issues.

“We have two existing programmes called Horizons and Perspective, which are for senior leadership as well as the next level down,” said Nick Wright, UK managing director at Hyper Island.

“Those were existing programmes which we worked with Louise to meet their needs; so the names remain, but the content has completely changed since we started that relationship.”

Howells added: “Hyper Island spent a lot of time understanding our needs as an organisation and how they can have their content hit at a relevant level and be understandable to our audience.”

Now, after receiving positive feedback from programme alumni, TUI is seeking to expand the number of employees being trained so as to maximise its impact: “We’ve had 60 senior leaders and about 100 emerging leaders on the high potential programmes, but we’re just about pilot a new programme that will kick off in May, with 100 more senior managers going through.

“The intention is to continue the roll-out of that to the rest of the senior managers on that level, which will take us up to about 1,000.”

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Although TUI has 70,000 employees worldwide, Howells claimed that focusing on this level of leadership means every major part of the business will be affected.

“We will cover our central region, which is Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Nordic, Benelux, France, our aviation business and our tour operating business, hotels, cruises and our group function colleagues – it will be totally spread across the group.”

Howells said the pilot would finish in September, and that it would take a “blended” approach to learning through a mixture of face-to-face, conference-style events and online training.

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